As promised, the end of the weekend mail
One of the greats passed away Jan. 5, 1988:
Pete Maravich was truly a wizard. You might compare him to Steve Nash or Magic. Unbelievable talent.
John C, Mississauga
A: He was incredible, I’m just sorry I didn’t get to see more of him as a player; saw a bunch, never saw him in person.
And I will say this although I’m sure there will be debate:
I cannot think of a player in a North American team sport who was as far ahead of his time than Pistol was.
Perhaps – maybe – you could make a case for George Mikan in basketball but I don’t know.
Q: Hi Doug -- there are a lot of ex Raptors (both coaching staff and players) around the league. Which team is deepest in ex Raptors?
Added bonus question -- from which other team are the most current Raptors (players or staff)?
Sheila C, Ottawa
A: Man, you made the research monkey (me!) work hard.
But you know what, it was interesting because there are only two teams with more than one ex-Raptor on the roster today.
And that’s Brooklyn with Hump and Reggie Evans and Dallas with Shawn Marion and that Carter fellow. Was interesting to look through the rosters, though. So, thanks, even if it did make me a bit later getting this done on Sunday night than I had hoped.
As for your bonus questions, I can’t find a team with more than two and several are tied with one.
Q: Doug: You have often commented on your lamentable wheels, namely your smelly Ford Focus. Clearly the Ford brand could be enhanced with some creative marketing. Could your bosses at the Star, in concert with the marketing department at Ford, work with your blog readers to provide you with a new vehicle? Imagine the promotional possibilities!
Craig B, Owen Sound
A: How cool would that be? Alas, am far, far, far down the pecking order and after Sunday’s pucks event, even further, I fear.
Q: Hi Doug! Good for Sonny. Nice to see things are apparently going so well for him overseas. And a good 'life lesson', too. You know, when life hands you lemons, you've got to learn to make lemonade. Better still, create a lemon meringue pie. While dancing the merengue.
So, as I watched Sonny sit in that hot tub with a gorgeous blonde whilst advertising pizza, it brings to mind a question for you. Let's say, waaaay back, when you were a young kid like Sonny, and say things hadn't worked out the way they have with The Star and say you'd decided to cast your lot overseas - where do you think you might've landed, and what would you be writing about?
Thank you. Now, since watching Sonny's ad, I've had a Beatles tune randomly pop in and out of my head. Something about 'Back in the USSR'. Remember it?
Lorie P, London
A: With my language skills, it’s have to Old Blighty or I’d be cooked. Truth is, unlike so many People Of This Vintage or slightly younger, I had no desire to go back-packing through Europe when I was done school, really held little allure to me.
I do recall, however, sitting at many a high school party and singing every word to almost every song on The White Album, now that you mention it.
Q: Hi Doug, it was interesting to see Ed Davis win the opening tip against Portland on Wednesday. He obviously has some serious jumping ability and perhaps he should have been given this opportunity earlier. Do they measure a player's vertical leaping ability? His short and mid-range jump shot has improved considerably and with his elevation, would seem almost unstoppable. Your thoughts?
Jim F, London
A: I’m not sure “almost unstoppable” is the way to put it; he could be pretty good if he makes a bunch of them.
And yes, they do testing on vertical jumping but it really doesn’t matter. The ability to jump when guarded or when some defender is in your face or grabbling your arm is what counts. Simply standing and jumping high might make you an athlete; doing it successfully in a game makes you a basketball player.
Q: Among all active players can you pick two All-Star Ex-Raptors teams, one East and one West? And which team you like better?
Aries C, Markham
A: I wish I could but I can say with absolute certainty, being the all-star, Hall of Fame hard ass that I am I cannot in any way find five in each conference that are even close to worthy.
Q: Hi Doug. Just read a great article by Tom Haberstroh about Lebron.
Very interesting read that lead me to think: Are we witnessing the emergence of the greatest player the game has ever seen? I think it's possible, which is a nice reminder that I should be watching more Miami games.
Colin K, Ann Arbor
A: It was a good piece and there is no question that LeBron should be, if he isn’t already, in that discussion. It is a joy to watch him play.
However, with the game so changed since the olden days, and sure to change in the future, a discussion is all that it is. Too hard to compare generations; a nice chat to have on stools, that’s about all it is. It’s fun, though.
Q: Hey Doug. Love your Raptors blog, read it every day.
I read this stat you had on your recent post and it made me wonder.
"Esoteric stat, Part 1: Toronto is averaging 25.8 assists (second in the NBA) and 10.8 turnovers (first in the NBA) in its last 10 games."
Where do you (you!) get your stats from? From a site, a colleague, a Raptors organization member? And is it safe for me to assume that these stats are crunched by the Raptors organization and then fed to the coaching staff? I imagine "Hey HOTH, you guys are first in turnovers over the last 10 days - take care of the ball!"
Darrick L, Toronto
A: Mostly from the team or the NBA website. They’re pretty available to almost anyone, actually. At least ones like those are.
And, believe me, the coaching staff knows those numbers and many, many, many more that the impart to the players before every game.
The turnovers one? Actually, first is best; the 10.8 were fewer in that span than any team in the league.
Q: Received any "Bring back Douby" comments?
More seriously, when do you think the importance of the 6th man emerged? Obviously, some of the greatest teams in history had some great 6th men but that can be more attributed to having 5 really good starters. In the present game, coaches and players, to some extent, really value this role with some 'starters' being relegated to 'the bench'. I also realize that there is a difference between being a starter and receiving starter minutes, but I think every player would still strive to be a starter and receive starter minutes. So what can you attribute to this slight change in culture? My knowledge of basketball history only dates back 20 years so I would have pointed towards Toni Kukoc? Just interested to know, thanks in advance.
Felix T, Denver
A: I think what some teams do is try to find a balance between starting units and backups and there’s no doubt that some players who you’d think “should” start (Manu Ginobili comes to mind) come off the bench for that reason. But in those cases – and look at stats for Amir Johnson, for instance, those guys do seem to put up “starters” minutes.
And it’s generally conceded that that first prominent Sixth Man was John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics.
Q: Given the current lack of bigs due to injury, do the raps think about signing someone to a 10 day contract or two to help them weather the storm? My first thought was who are they going to bring in that would be any help, let alone get up to speed in 10 days, but then it occurred that maybe Jamal Magloire might be a reasonable stopgap option - at least better than anything else they might pick up from the D-league. He knows the team and the system, he's a vet with legit NBA experience and he should be good for a few hard fouls a night. Or does his current role with the Raps limit him from playing.
Thanks, appreciate all your hard work.
Tim S, Anderson
A: Teams can’t sign players to 10-day deals until Jan. 10, for one; and the Raptors have a full roster and would have to waive someone to do it. That’s not something they’re inclined to do.
Q: Hey Doug, I was just watching some old Shawn Kemp clips on youtube; and through there, I saw Dwane Casey as an assistant coach for Seattle in those days. I wonder what was coaching guys like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton like for Coach Casey?
Raphael F, Toronto
A: I’ve heard it could be challenging but that team was soooo good, they put up with a quirk here and there to chase a championship.
Q: Hey Doug, my early morning read.
I have a ton of questions. But I'll settle for two.
Started watching basketball on TV WAY back when we first got cable. Cable was from Detroit. I became a Detroit fan. Isiah, Bill, Microwave.
Bill Laimbeer was the NASTIEST person in the NBA. Who's around like him today? Or can you get away with that stuff today?
Now, VERY important pay back time for you. Myself and two friends are in Toronto for three games (Clippers, Heat, Celtics...(eye roll here) The HOTHC are gonna win all three right?
So, where do we hang after the games? Before the games? Well, all day actually? Good tap beer, good pub food is essential. We have no transportation, but staying VERY close to the Rogers Center/ACC. We're three old guys, over but not under the hill. 90+ years of coaching experience between us. Sure do wish that would get us a free beer somewhere. Oh well.
Thanks Doug. Oh yeah, and thank you very much for "Eli the Barrow Boy."
Art G, Pasadena, NL
A: Okay, first things first.
I think you need to visit the Harbour Sports Grille, which is a bit south and east of the arena and is populated by very nice people. Mention my name and you’ll get a good seat. But, really, if you wander Front Street you’ll find a lot of good places; I have become a big fan of Jack Astor’s (hello, Square One and Andre and JT and the rest of the staff) but a lot of them are good. Let me know if you’ve got an afternoon.
As to your basketball question, the game has changed so much that the “toughness” that Laimbeer or the rest of them just doesn’t wash any more.
Not sure anyone will ever get away with the stuff they pulled.
Q: Doug. I have noticed that refs are watching the feet more this year and even the "slides" and "dragging" are being called traveling. I assume that is a point of emphasis that we hear about time to time.
While I love the NBA is calling it, they seem to miss the big man. Cousins had one play that was Ewing-like. Established, one step, two steps, three steps and scores (good old pvr.) At least a couple of times he got an extra step. (Yes I know the step hop is not traveling in the NBA.)
I mentioned Ewing because he is the one I remember the most for traveling. Who in the NBA gets to clearly bend the rules? Do you think there is all-time list for this thing.
I think Lowry on the Raps seem to get most questionable doubt on the team but do not see him bending as much as being the small guy against the big guy thing.
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: Travelling is a very complicated call, actually. It’s been a “point of emphasis” for a while and I guess officials are more cognizant of it.
I can’t think of a serial traveller off the top of my head, though.
Q: Back to dumb questions again. Do athletes ever forget that they have a sort of symbiotic relationship with sports writers. Do they forget that without sports writers and reporters covering them, they have no name, no big paycheck, maybe even no team. You could have teams and a league and even be a paid professional, but without the sports writer there would be no nation wide or world wide coverage, no big pay day. I am sure sports writers are aware of that, probably there are some that think that they are the most important of the two. However I suspect a lot of athletes take it for granted and just assume that the adulation is just there because they are the star, without ever realizing that without the sports coverage, they would just be another home town hero.
Gerry T, Halifax
A: You know, some of them do, even though the relationship has changed so much over the years. There are far too many of us who are after “gotcha” moments that I can’t blame players for being a bit leery and I daresay the athletes feel then can more quickly – and unfiltered – get to the public.
But, at some level, they really do need us, I don’t think they realize it, though.
Q: Speaking of odd stat lines I would give good odds that the Raptors 2009-2010 season is unique in NBA history. They had higher shooting percentages than their opponents, both overall (.482-.468) and from three (.371-.366) but were outscored (104.1-105.9) because of the larger number of attempted threes. I think you would have to assume that Jay's defensive plan of defending the house did not work.
I also have a question (or a set of them).
Do you recall seeing a team turn a season around as much as the Raptors are apparently doing?
Do you expect this to continue?
Is it because: a) the schedule is easier? b) they were bad? c) they are now good? d) they were unlucky? e) they are now lucky?
I assume it is some combination, care to speculate on the relative weights?
Jim R, Toronto
A: I covered a team here that won something like 10 of its last 12 with its best player injured to get into the playoff so, yeah, I have Raptors teams turn seasons around. And one of Sam’s teams started like 3-9 and rallied or something. And I am sure there are other examples league-wide that I’ll look up in late March or April if this continues.
And, no, I don’t expect this level of success to continue, no right-thinking person does, but I do expect them to do as I thought they might: Scratch and claw to 37-39 wins and challenge for the post-season.
Why did it turn around: In order, I’d go (a) and the rest are tied.
Q: Hi Doug. You've been a round the game for a while now, covering more than just the Raptors. How about a list of your top 10 greatest moments that you personally witnessed while covering the NBA. Might be Raptor-heavy, I understand. Would it be very different if I opened the list up to other sports that you've covered throughout your career.
Colin K, Ann Arbor
A: Wow, you’re going to have to give me some time to think about that, it’s been a lot of years at a lot of games.
Tell you what, gimme a few days and we’ll parcel them out in the regular morning thing, okay? Maybe on off-days when there’s no Three Pointers or something like that.
Might be fun to get the Research Monkeys (that’d be me) to find the various stories, too.
But it’s going to take some thought. And me remembering to do it.
Q: Great chats, both PG are playing really well, if BC can’t get a commitment from JC how he should approach? Kyle has 1year left.
Alex K, Toronto
A: He should do nothing until the summer and see where they are. No sense making any commitments to anyone right now. I am dead certain they will – and should – have discussions next summer with Jose about coming back but that’s months away and there’s no sense thinking about what might or might not happen in July.
Q: My question is about the ongoing saga with Royce White and his refusal to go to the D-League. Here is a comment I found on NBA.com, "White is making it impossible for any other player with mental health issues to make it in the NBA without hiding their condition. He is doing the very opposite of what he wants to do. He is turning people against players with mental health issues."
I agree with this statement. I understand that he has a mental condition but I feel the rockets have been accommodating. It appears his advisers are not helping him. I think the Rockets should just release him and let him get the help he needs. He seems to be a person who feels entitled and is using his condition to his advantage and is doing a lot of harm for other players who have mental conditions.
I would like to hear your opinion on this.
Dave B, Cornwall
A: You’ll understand that I don’t know too many specifics of the White story because I’m not close to it but I have spoken to some executives – and players – about it in short conversations. These, though, are my own thoughts:
I agree wholeheartedly with you. I don’t think White served any useful purpose by taking to social media outlets to vent against an organization that was seemingly willing to try to find a workable solution. No one won in that regard and I do now think White’s time with the Rockets is over.
As for what it will do to other players in even remotely similar circumstances? I believe NBA general managers will be a bit more leery but they will be willing to do what they can to find a workable solution to problems.
The fear I have is that athletes might keep issues hidden or private now because of the way this turned out. And it would be a shame to think that White, who is trying to make things easier for those who follow him, might have exactly the opposite impact. That’s the shame of the matter to my eyes.
Q: Hi Doug. It was great seeing you and catching up with you the last couple of games at the ACC. As promised here is my question as I promised I would send.
In terms of Royce White of the Houston Rockets, we know of his "fear of flying issues" and his ongoing battles with this. If you were both GM of the Rockets and the Commissioner chair, how would you handle this issue?
Thanks for everything you do and see you soon,
Andrew L, Toronto
A: Well, there’s a Royce White answer right above this question that deals with one aspect of it.
As for what the team should do? I think they’ve done pretty much all they can, despite White’s very public complaints.
As for the league? Can’t see how or why it should get involved in what really is a team discipline matter.
Q: Having spent plenty of time watching the Raptors look great and look awful this season, I've noticed one constant: no matter what, Quincy Acy provides great energy on the bench. I don't mean as a bench player but actually on the bench. He is always standing, cheering and supporting his teammates and is, usually, the first guy to run out and congratulate someone. I know it's very minor in the grand scheme of things but I think it has to help to have a guy so invested and excitable, no matter how things are going.
Phil D, Ottawa
A: It endears him greatly to his coaches and teammates and is a way for him to remain engaged in games when he’s not going to play. Tells you a little about the kid, too, doesn’t it?
Q: The team is rolling now, but why is Aaron Gray still starting? It seems like those 10 minutes are moot to start the game.
Ken T, Thornhill
A: Why not? Why risk extending the minutes of a thin frontcourt, why take the chance on Amir getting into foul trouble in the first five minutes of a game? Yes, they are buying time with Gray, just as they’re buying time with Pietrus but it seems to be working pretty well so it makes no sense to change until Valanciunas and Bargnani are back.
Q: Doug, I think it has become evident given Caseys success in Dallas, last years success and now this nice turnaround that he can coach. My question is do you think given the style of play that he started out with this year more "run and gun" that there was pressure from his bosses to change up the style and focus more on scoring and that all the finger pointing towards Dwayne was in fact not warranted?
Dean W, Kitchener
A: I’m sure there was some input from his bosses, just like there are discussions between bosses and employees in every industry known to man. But Dwane also realized his team’s offensive woes last year were significant and had to be addressed. I’m sure he wishes there’d be a better balance during training camp and the pre-season but hindsight’s 20-20.
But please think back three weeks or so: There was more than enough finger-pointing at everyone, it certainly wasn’t just at Dwane.
Q: Hi Doug. Question for u regarding raptor injuries.
How do they stack up with the rest of the league in missed games? With all the said improved effort in training staff, conditioning etc. - has it made a difference - this yr. vs other years.
Some players are out lots - Andre, Linas, Kyle,- any insight into why or the long term effects?
Ron S, Thunder Bay
A: How come you didn’t use “4 u?”
Anyway, they are about the same as many teams, in the middle of the pack in injuries and games lost, etc.
And yes, there is much insight into why: Players get hurt. There is no preventative moves to take that would lessen the chance of a guy blowing a ligament in his elbow falling down in a game (Bargnani) or a guy ripping a tricep fall in the same game (Lowry). Those things happen. Kleiza’s has had chronic knee issues since his surgery and I’d give you that he’s even made it back this far because of the training staff, not in spite of it.
Q: Hi Doug. Sorry for another Bargnani question, but I wanted to get your insight. We saw Andrea have success last season with the current system of sharing the ball. He struggled at the start of this season, but would you say that there is opportunity for him to play well again now that last year's system seems to have been restored?
Ron C, Markham
A: Of course there’s an opportunity for him to play well, it’s entirely up to him. He’s done it before and can do it again.
And anyone who thinks the dramatic turnaround in the team’s fortunes is solely due to addition by subtraction simply is piling-on with no regard for reality.